Crop Genome Engineering Facility

CRISPR technology is revolutionising plant breeding. Due to high efficiency and simple design, CRISPR has brought genome engineering (GE) in reach of most academic labs, small and medium enterprises. Plant transformation is however a major bottleneck in plant gene editing. The Crop Genome Engineering Facility (CGEF) operates a maize transformation platform that can be accessed by academic labs and by companies. In addition, we perform cutting-edge research to facilitate plant regeneration and to improve CRISPR delivery.

Maize transformation

The CGEF operates a maize transformation platform that can be accessed by academic labs and companies.

For more information about our maize transformation platform, practicalities and pricing, click here. Our platform is based on Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation of immature embryos of the inbred line B104. Most of the constructs we handle are related to CRISPR. With our experience and in collaboration with the Jacobs lab, we can also help other labs with construct design, cloning and downstream analysis of new alleles. We also work closely together with the PSB Plant Interactomics Facility for an AP/MS-based interactomics service in maize in either whole plants or callus. Upon request and depending on the scientific questions, maize lines can be analyzed on the automated phenotyping platform, PHENOVISION, in collaboration with the Inzé/Nelissen lab.

We are also developing particle bombardment-based methods for transformation of other genotypes such as H99; homologous recombination; and DNA-free CRISPR delivery.

Plant regeneration

Plant regeneration is a bottleneck for transformation and gene editing. We are investigating the use and function of morphogenic regulators in maize to increase transformation efficiency.

Recent advances in the use of BABYBOOM and WUSCHEL are revolutionizing maize transformation. We want to understand how these morphogenic regulators work by unraveling their gene regulatory networks. Moreover, we are developing own, proprietary, morphogenic regulators that can be used as alternative for gene editing in maize.

Agrobacterium engineering

Currently gene editing relies primarily on Agrobacterium for delivery. We are “engineering the engineer” in order to develop new strains with improved properties for plant transformation.

Most Agrobacterium strains used in academic institutes have been around for decades. We want to bring in new insights and the newest techniques such as gene editing to optimize these strains for plant transformation. Laboratory strains with properties such as increased virulence, reduced plant tissue necrosis or transient-only T-DNA delivery are needed for improved gene editing in maize and other plant species.